We have often discussed how universities have become battle grounds over so-called “microaggressions” and offensive terms or images involving race, religion, or culture. Some of these efforts raise serious questions of the erosion of free speech as well as double standards applied to faculty and students. The example of the sensitivity toward such objections was evident this week at Clemson University, which apologizes for racial or cultural insensitivity for holding “Maximum Mexican” night featuring Mexican cuisine. Two students were offended and the university has apologized.
Clemson Dining’s “Maximum Mexican” night is popular among students for Mexican themed food and festivities. However, two students, who took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the school’s decision to host such a “#CUlturallyInsensitive” event. “Amanda A” was one of those students:
The university also has themed nights for St. Patrick’s day etc. Yet, one student objected to the wearing of sombreros: “Our culture isn’t a costume and we will not be mocked!” Yet, is it mocking to wear a hat associated with Mexico? If so, they might want to check out Cinco de Mayo celebrations?
Dr. Doug Hallenbeck, Clemson University’s Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, however, went public with an apology for the event’s “flattened cultural view of Mexican culture. . . It is the mission of University Housing & Dining to create supportive and challenging environments that enrich and nourish lives. We failed to live out our mission yesterday, and we sincerely apologize.”
Hallenbeck promised reforms.
At times, stereotypes are evident in celebrations. For example, when I take the kids to places likes Busch Gardens both my Irish and Italian heritage is representing by common imagery and stereotypes, but I am not offended. Indeed, I am glad that my two cultures are so widely enjoyed. Is it a “flattened” presentation? Yes, but all imagery and symbols are reductionist to some extent. My concern is that we are becoming a hyper-sensitive society where people are increasingly attuned to take offense, even when the other party is acting with no malice or disrespect intended by their actions.
What do you think?